top of page

A Seat at the Table

Hello Future Fit Food Fans and welcome back to the Future Fit Foods (FFF) blog. This week we invite you to join our conversation on the Future of Food, where we start a dialog about what it means to have a seat at the table in the food industry.

When I was growing up, eating our nightly dinner was not only about the sustenance provided by the food on the table but an opportunity to catch up on life and the politics of the day. My mom being a single parent, strived to find work-life balance. Still, she always managed to cook a meal so we could enjoy the ritual of sharing dinner. I always enjoyed this hour or so with mom and the political debates that would inevitably unfold. I thank her for this nightly discourse that certainly benefitted me later in life.

While eating tasty food, we rarely reflect about how that food found its way to our table. The people involved from the farms and fields, the logistics needed to move the ingredients and all the other steps in the process that involves people perhaps from multiple geographies and cultures. All of these steps from origin to your mouth is the food value chain.

Cashew nut worker on the island of Kho Phayam, Thailand. One single nut is cracked at a time managing the process carefully as the outside contains a potent skin irritant.

Recently with COVID19, we have all thought more about this value chain and the essential workers involved at all levels from the upstream to the downstream that have grown the ingredients, made the food, shipped the food, kept the shelves stocked, checked you out (if not purchased on-line) and delivered to your door (if on-line) or picked up on the curb at your local restaurant. All of these people who make up our collective humanity have kept the food on our tables throughout these extraordinary and trying times.

During our travels exploring markets from Windhoek, Namibia, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, we were fortunate to be welcomed by vendors with open arms hearing their stories and turning a largely transactional exercise into a meaningful interaction. We also had the opportunity to visit many of these people in the farms and fields, including those driving the trucks learning about their lives, their ambitions, and their challenges.

Kho Phayam, Thailand. Our daily conversations with this couple were as sweet and memorable as their mango sticky rice.

We don't pretend to have an in-depth view of these needs. Still, we do know that the people working in food value chains deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and are an integral part of the system.

Dignity and Respect for FFF include guaranteeing their human and labor rights at work so they can reach their full potential as human beings. It also means offering them a seat at the table through dialog and engagement and in some cases, the multitude of certifications. We feel that through purchasing a tasty, quality product, we can make a difference in many of these makers, owners, farmers, and workers' lives.

We aspire to build our FFF impact business model around our colleague Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economic Model. The image below shows the doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017) with the state of humanity’s health and areas requiring action in red.

In short, the “framework was proposed regarding the performance of an economy by the extent to which the needs of people are met without overshooting Earth's ecological ceiling." If we get this right with your help, we will create more value for humanity than we destroy.

As we sit around our table, we ask all of you. How do we make sure that the new food we create ensures that the people in our value chain have a seat at the table? How can we demonstrate value creation for them and their communities? What approaches are you aware of, or would you like to see baked into our model? Help us connect the dots.

118 views1 comment

1 Comment

Alex Karzag
Alex Karzag
May 26, 2020

Nice post Sean. Thank you for sharing the stories of those in your travels and the Doughnut Economic Model. Kate accurately visualizes the areas that are important to humanity on earth and how we are operating within, or without, of them. In the words of John Perkins, we can measure our success by how well we interact with everything around us.

To answer your closing questions, we at Producers Market are working tirelessly to tell the stories of food products and their origins, from farm to consumer. We've created an app to educate consumers about the source of their food, its value chain and its participants, so they can make more intentional and intelligent purchasing decisions. It highlights producers and…

bottom of page